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Norway's Oroas - November 8-16, 03 Antarctica Peninsula - February 16-27, '04 Canadian Polar Bears & Beluga - May 26-June 14, 04
South African Sardine Run - June 10-20, 04 Great White Sharks June 30-July 14, 04 Ultimate Antarctica - January 23-Febrirafy 12, 05
The World: 001 (415) 923-9865 U.S.: (877) 229-4253 www.BigAnimals.com
On a windy September morning I arrive on Baltra Island, some 1000 km west of the South American coast. This is my fourth trip to the enchanted islands of Galapagos. It has cost megabucks to come, but these far-flung equatorial islands of Ecuador are celebrated as the world's greatest natural history asset, unique diversity of marine and land fauna providing a living textbook for ecologists, scuba divers and naturalists alike. What makes the Galapagos outstanding from other wild places I have known is that not only can I feel and see wilderness right on the street of populated islands, but that I become part of wilderness. Isolated from the mainland of South America, Galapagos creatures lack an instinctive sense of fear for humans and will allow interaction with benign curiosity both above and underwater.
For this beyond-the-ordinary tour, I have made up a mega shooting list comprising of whale sharks, schooling hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, sea horse, Mola Mola, marine iguanas above and below water, sea lions above and below water, penguins above and below water, the Wave albatross, flightless cormorants, dolphins and of course the usual suspects of giant tortoises, sea turtles, Red Lip batfish, frigate birds and boobies. The cunning plan for this special tour is to track the route of Al Giddings when he worked on the IMAX 3D in 1998, packing in the best of the Galapagos both above and below all into a 12-day sojourn.
I once wrote that the Galapagos is a place where one can feel and see evolution in motion. Well, as part of natural progression, I am evolving during this trip; evolving from shooting 100% film to 100% digital - sort of a megapixel photographic journey. My equipment of choice is the Nikon D1X and D100. An arsenal of lenses comprise the 12-24mm D
Marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). NIKON D1X. 1/90 @ f 11.0. Zoom Length : 24 mm. Exposure Bias :-667. Zoom Length : 24 mm Ambient light. Location: Punta Espinosa, Fernadina
This is a photographer's vision of Galapagos - an iguana underwater. The shot I always wanted. Whilst they are easily seen topside, to see them underwater, careful planning is essential. The right tide, hot sunny afternoon and because of their diet of algae, getting pictures of them underwater means diving in surgy green shallow water. I was in ecstasy after this shoot.
lens, 18mm f2.8, 16mm f2,8 fisheye, 24mm f2.8, 28-70mm f2.8 and the 80-400 f4 ED lens. Digital films are just 2 x 1 gig compact flash card and 2 x 1gig IBM Microdrive. Though I have a notebook computer, digital media is downloaded after each session into a portable 40 gig XDrive. Heeding my own advice to anyone visiting the Galapagos to bring twice the amount of film stock, I brought along 2 portable drives and there's always more hard disk space in my trusty note book with a combo DVD/CD RW drive. I came
Sea lion in Bubble bath. NIKON D100,1/160 @f8.0, Zoom Length : 24 mm, Exposure Bias :- 667. Ambient light Champion, off Floreana
In between dives, we took time to play with a small sea lion colony at Champion Is. I caught this one enjoying a 'bubble bath' right in front of Paul's camera. I would have loved to shoot from his perspective!
'well prepared', just in case all else failed, I brought along a spool of 50 x 700mb CD's. My stomach churned as I embarked on this digital journey, hard disk and digital media do fail, and humans are known to err, what if I accidentally erase or format a disk! Fragile as it is, one can not erase a roll of film just by pushing a 'Delete' button.
Without doubt, digital has its advantages. With a 1 gig media card, I get 131 frames in the Dlx and 103 frames in the D100. With two camera systems set up for each shoot, there were only five instances that I ran out of frames before I ran out of time. With the fickle weather conditions in the Galapagos, the ability to change ISO during a dive to adapt to
Gotcha! Scallop hammerhead shark fSphyna lewinij. NIKON D100.1/60 @ f 5.0. Zoom Length : 20 mm. Single Ikelite S200 strobe. Location: Darwin Arch This shot is by Paul Tsai, my buddy for many years. Generally Hammerheads dislike bubbles. To get them close for a decent portrait we often resorted to holding our breath. This one came real close, I pressed the shutter and exhaled, causing him to turn right towards Paul. He got me and the runaway shark.
changing light is a luxury afforded only by digital shooters. I shoot entirely manual underwater; the ability to have an instant 'test' on exposure, enhances productivity and success ratio. One clear difference became noticeable with digital; I have less time to rest between dives -instead of sleep and a book I will be culling and downloading images. For me, it is cardinal to have a fresh reformatted media in the camera for each dive. Realistically every dive in the Galapagos is good, but there are magical ones when it all seems to come together and then 130 frames is hardly enough! Working topside is not a problem with a spare 1 gig card, just pop the fresh one in while downloading the other in the portable
Tourists and the marine iguanas on Fernadina Island
Xdrive. I shoot in NEF (raw) mode and images are processed with the Bibble software www.bibblelab.com.
In 12 days, we dived and visited 12 islands, which is including 3 days diving with the Hammerheads, dolphins and whale sharks at Darwin and Wolf. In a nutshell, we saw everything that we hoped to see. Iguanas overload - by the hundreds, piling on top of one another resembling a mountain of discarded worn out tires and at Espanola and Floreana Islands we got them in their mating colouration of red and green. But to catch them underwater, I had to wait to the second last day to shoot them in the surgey green water off North Fernadina. We were overwhelmed to find about 10 young adult waved albatross at Espanola socialising, each looking out to find their mate for life. We caught them in the air, on the ground and young chick as well. I've got a bit blase after awhile with the number of hammerheads and whale sharks but was delighted to find half a dozen Sunfish (Mola Mola) at Punta Vicente Roca. Of course, the sea lions were determined not to share our attention and proceeded promptly to chase them
Galapagos Barnacle Blenny, Acanthemblemaria castroi. NIKON DIX. 1/60 @ F40. Zoom Length :60 mm. Single S200 Ikelite strobe. Location: Leon Dormido, San Cristobal. These endemic Galapagos blenny dart out from their refuge of barnacle shells into the current to nab bits of food. I have a definite affection for blennies but shooting them in a surge is akin to shooting moving targets from a rollercoaster. The Seacam S45 viewfinder, with enlarged 1:1 magnification is an invaluable tool getting these images.
away. Except for 3 days at Darwin and Wolf and one day at Roca Rotunda where we dive all day, we only do 2 dives in the morning and spend 3-4 hours on each afternoon for each land visit. We have Salon Intriago and Collette Moire, as our dive and naturalist guides providing hand on interpretation of the ecology and showing us the highlights of each location. They commented that in their 10 years' experience, our itinerary is the best and most meaningful ever put together for the ultimate experience in the Galapagos.
Both the D100 and D1X did exactly what they were supposed to do. Because of the bigger buffer and
Land Iguana —Conolophus subcristatus.NIKON D100.1/1000 @ f5.6. Zoom Length : 16 mm Exposure Bias : -0.667. Lens: fisheye 16 mm. Location: Plaza Island
Equally as enigmatic as their marine counterpart, the land cousin is definitely more glorified in appearance. There's no problem getting close, as long as they are within the trail.
auto focus speed, for underwater I set up the D1X for macro and the D100 for wide angle and portraits of big animals using the 24mm lens. As a result I was able to get some publishable image of those iffy endemic Galapagos blennies and gobies. The 24mm lens is perfect for portraits of sharks, sealions and sunfish. Again for topside I used the D1X for shooting birds in flight and the D100 mostly for sedentary animals and landscapes. Even with relatively new stock, I make it a point to put in a freshly-charged battery in the D1X on every second dive but for the D100, one battery change is sufficient for an entire day of shooting sometime exposing more than 500 frames. With both cameras, I average about 700 frames per shooting day. Both cameras performed flawlessly above and underwater and a spare D100 body was never used.
Problems: I did have a major one. On the second day, the USB2 socket of the Xdrive became detached from the internal circuit board. I was still able to download images, but there was no way to connect the drive to the notebook to verify the download or to review the images. A quick swap to a back up portable case, allowed me to continue
Giant tortoise Geochelone elephantophus porteri NIKON D100 1/19 @ F 5.6 Zoom Length : 70 mm
Exposure Programme Aperture priority Exposure Bias : 1.667 Metering Mode : Pattern
Location : Santa Cruz, Sub species found on Santa Cruz
Giant tortoises - the signature of the Galapagos islands. Each island has own sub species adapted to survive on the terrain to which they live. Nowhere else in the world where the process of evolution is more visible.
using the same hard disk. Another photographer using a 1 gig card was less fortunate. Due to insufficient back up media, he chose to shoot in NORMAL mode using a 5 megapixel camera which should yield him about 842 images for the entire trip. On the 10th day of the tour, the card decides to freeze up during a dive in the 15C water - the camera menu literally turns upside down. He lost all the stored images; 10 days of wildlife experience vamoose in a FLASH card instantly! It is vital to download, and even back up the back up images. I am an optimist, but still never trust digital media, they do fail.
By culling unwanted and test shots, I returned with 3981 file images, equivalent to 110.5 rolls of conventional films which would have cost about $2210 for the stock and processing. In this instance, the images are almost ready for use, and all I have to do is to format those 1gig media and I will be all set for the next assignment. Though I am happy with the result, I am an old fashioned photographer still preferring the colour of films for fine rendition and colour dynamic. Generally digital image lacks tonal range and the contrast is sort of clinical. Don't
Scallop hammerhead sharks fSphyna lewinij. NIKOND100.1/100 @ f 9.0. Zoom Length : 24 mm. Exposure Bias : - .667. Zoom Length : 24 mm Ambient light. Location: Darwin Arch
Schooling hammerheads - signature of the Galapagos; they are seen on every dive at Darwin and Wolf.
get me wrong, digital is here to stay, it is the future, and it will get cheaper and better. As in the thoughts of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" - it is not the fittest that survive, but the one that is adaptable to change. There's significant truth in that observation some 150 years later-half the E6 film labs in Sydney have gone belly up in the last few years. The survivors are those that have adapted to supporting digital media. But again Darwin's Theory of Evolution is a very slow gradual process. Natural selection acts only by taking advantage of slight successive variations; she can never take a great and sudden leap, but must advance by short and sure, though slow steps. Change comes but very slowly.
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Photo & Naturalist / 2004 tours
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Beyond the Ordinary Galapagos Tour 30 Sept to 11 October 20Q4 Specially packaged for mturabt and ptotcgiipiliers, flits tourb icdaimedTlie ben ever pift (ogetlter even 1rf Hie most eifjieritntid guides in the Gdlapagos; fcejratid the umferwitet wonders, topside Galapagos inhere one will we and feet evolution m million, Following liie route of .'l Gidding wlien lie ?hot on the Gilnpagos IMAX if), our l1 day tour ewapiulaie the besl of hoth ihuve a nd heW rfT^n-ctp ijr qf a; le«! 1 i sfthe 14 wthantiiig ¡jJjpds cf llie Gilipigfli, The 2M4 tiur wiW be owr fourth itiing |hli «dsfmed ilmeri^ - we are ptoud to have jch^ed 1 (W eKHIent wtisfidnjn from all our 2W1 participiints.
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The reality of digital underwater photography By Alexander Mustard
A few issues ago, the editor asked what we would most like to see in UWP and our number one response was
"Photo Tips". Well, having just spent a week on a liveaboard with 11 other underwater photographers I have a great one: if you don't want the conversation hijacked by opinion and argument don't mention the word "digital"! One small slip with the d-word and you can wave small talk goodbye for half an hour. The digital debate is lively one, made worse when a few digital divers get together and the torrent of jargon and acronyms quickly becomes impenetrable to all but a (flash)card carrying, digital enthusiast. "Talking megapixels" is how one photographer summed up this new language.
This article is my contribution to the debate. My thesis is simple: digital is better than film because it is more fun! In the digital debate I don't care about the pixel count, the numbers of shots per dive, instant image review, highlight vs shadow detail, control, storage etc. I'm not David Duvet. I, like most underwater photographers, take pictures because I enjoy it and the best camera for me is the one I enjoy using the most! Simple.
There is a serious side to this article. My intention is to tell you about the experience of being a digital photographer What are the differences between a typical dive vacation on film and on digital? To reduce the bias of my own experiences I asked the members of the wetpixel digital photography forum for their opinions and I'll include some of their quotes on why digital is more fun than film. These quotes may also go some way to reveal a bit about the psyche of the "average" digital underwater photographer!
My personal favourite advance of the whole digital revolution is the stress relief button. When we shoot film, we have no idea how we are doing. And while experience reassures us that we are OK, we can only remember what it looked like through the viewfinder. We are left comforting ourselves "I am pretty sure my TTL was working, and I think I loaded the film correctly, and I hope that the strobe was aimed at the whale shark and not that massive cloud of sediment that my buddy kicked up,
Digital photography brings a host of new experiences for the underwater photographer, like sitting in a van in a wetsuitfull of sand and salt downloading images to a laptop. Photograph by Steve Broadbelt.
and I pray the X-rays at the airport haven't fogged the film, and I hope that I remembered to take the lens cap off, and my camera strap wasn't over the lens and the strobes had recharged hadn't they?" etc; but we can never be 100% sure. On top of this, the better the diving, the more stressful the holiday becomes. Each once in a lifetime opportunity adds to the torture. Soon we're as tightly coiled as our exposed film wound up in those little green canisters.
This is where digital cameras and that marvellous stress release button come to our rescue. The stress relief button is only small, on the back, next to the LCD screen, but once I press it all my concerns vanish. One little push and I see exactly what I've just taken. The worry, the stress, just drifts away with my bubbles. If its good, I know I've got the shot, and if I haven't I know to try again. In addition, as one wetpixelite points out, the stress relief button can also keep
Image review also gives you the confidence to experiment with techniques such as this coral fluorescence image. Nikon D100, Nikkor 60mm, fll @ 1/180"'. SB80DX flash on 1/2 power. Fluorescence filters.
When you see something rare, like this star coral which spawns for only about 20 seconds a year, being able to see you have the shot is very reassuring. Nikon D100, 17-35mm Nikkor at 35mm. fll at 1/180th. Subal housing. 2 Subtronic Alpha strobes your boat cred: "I can fix my mistakes while still underwater and then delete the bad ones before anyone else even gets to see them."
The LCD screen has other bonuses too: "when you are standing on the deck of the boat after the dive explaining how you saw the rare and elusive creature, and the other divers don't believe you, you can pull the picture up on the LCD and show them right then and there". Plus "then they will buy you beers to take them to the spot". Of course, you can also do this underwater "when after half an hour or so you bump into your buddy again, you can compare critters on your LCDs and decide which you want to show each other". Also I"have
Instant image review allows you to correct the mistakes, even when they weren't your fault. Nikon D100, Sigma 28-70mm,fl6 @ 1/180"'. SB80DX flash on DTTL.
never had such pleasant safety stops, these days I pass the time reviewing, editing and enjoying my images!
Being able to get your hands on your images immediately after the dive is another big draw for the digi-snapper: "you can swap pictures with others while still on your trip", and "you can email pictures back to your office co-workers just to torment them"! The more kind hearted also add "you can share your photos with friends all over the world using the 'net, while on vacation." This seems a popular feature. There is a serious issue too: I have sent images back to a magazine in the UK while I was away in Grand Cayman, although I should point out that the issue didn't come out until several weeks after I returned home! It is also fair to note that all this sharing and caring might not improve your holiday "while everyone else is sleeping you can sit out on the bow of the boat swearing at the satellite phone for dropping your live-webcasting-call every 2 minutes"!
Showing off your images can have unexpected benefits, in addition
All the extra shots mean that you can mix in a few fun shots with more serious photography. Here my friend Rob is grinning through a piece of wreckage. Nikon D100, Nikkor 16mm, f8 @ 1/120"'. 2 x Subtronic Alphas at 1/4 power.
to the ego massage. I have found that the customary negotiations with the divemaster go much smoother when they see you are producing some decent shots and your strange requests are not wasting everyone's time. "Little did they know that I had downloaded them off somebody else's website and copied them onto my flash-card!" The same thing goes for your fellow divers, who become a bit more understanding of the photographer's needs.
The toy count has always been a major attraction to underwater photography, and digital provides an even bigger gadget-endorphin hit: "the adrenaline surge you get every time you back-roll into salt water with $14K worth of moisture sensitive electronics in your lap". The digital photographer's watchwords are'"smaller, faster, cheaper". A perfect sentence would be "I can transfer 1000 images a second onto my laptop with this finger-top card reader, and it only cost me $5 in Singapore".
A more thoughtful technophile argument is "digital gives you an
You are not the only one to benefit from the LCD replay. This divemaster had never modelled before, but because I was able to show him the results as we went he could immediately understand how to position himself in the shot. Nikon D100,16mm Nikkor. f13 at 1130th. Subal housing. 2 Subtronic Alpha strobes.
Sharing images while on vacation is great fun. Plus you can benefit from your friend's critique of your photography and take better pictures.
excuse to bring your laptop on vacation". Obviously a computer is just another gadget to add to the toy count "pulling out the laptop right after the dive is the ultimate kick for any gearhead". But these days a laptop is an ideal travel companion. Laptops have word processing and they have Photoshop, allowing me to work on that unwanted backscatter using that marvellous anti-spot cream that Adobe calls the clone stamp. Computers have space for an extensive MP3 music library, thousands of songs so you have just the right sound track for when you're the only one to see the whale shark, and for when you realise you had a plus 4 dioptre on your 105mm. Laptops can also play DVD movies and computer games; a good way to get popular with the liveaboard crew in the evenings, especially when your DVD's have Arabic subtitles!
The final bonus to about shooting digital is that you are not shooting slides! Digital photographers love this for two reasons: first, RAW digital files allow exposure (and other) corrections that is more akin to print film, which translates to a higher hit rate per dive, "very important to those who make just one overseas vacation a year". Second you can shoot loads more pictures on one dive or to be more accurate "you can make a hundred mistakes a dive instead of only 36". In addition all the extra shots encourage you to experiment, or even take some fun pictures of "your friends looking silly underwater" and then "blackmail them for beer" later. This is a serious point. How often do we return from a dive trip with beautiful underwater images but no images of the actual holiday or our family and friends because "I didn't want to start a film".
Of course it is not all doom and gloom for the E6 traditionalists. There is a certain magic lost from not having to wait for your slides. It is a part of the hobby that digital photographers certainly miss, though not always for the right reasons: "because I no longer have an excuse to see that girl at the film developing counter"!
Digital cameras may not be the complete replacement for film underwater yet, but remember trips with digital are much more, well like holidays. Wish you were all here!
Alexander Mustard with help from wetpixel.com
The Nudibranchs and flatworms of Ligpo Island by Nonoy Tan
It is 10 o'clock in the evening, I have just completed my second night dive. Although it has been an exhausting day, I exit the shore with a usual smile of delight. Again, the waters of Ligpo Island have not disappointed me. Ligpo always presents me with something new to discover, and I always finish an entire roll of film during each dive.
Located 100 kilometers south of the Philippine capital of Metro Manila, Ligpo Island can be reached by a two-hour land travel and a 10-minute boat ride. With a tiny land area, the island can be circumnavigated in one dive.
Divers love Ligpo for its magnificent drop-offs. On its south and west sides, huge coral fans stretch out against the water current. One hundred feet below, divers encounter seasonal pelagics; Ligpo is a popular destination for wall and recreational deep diving.
Not known to many, however, it is also a haven for critters. The waters on the north and east sides of the island are shallow (from 10 to 40 feet). In this area lives a circus of small creatures that makes a muck diver like me ever happy. It is home to the ghostpipefish, blue-ring octopus, spearer mantis shrimp, orangutan crab, frogfish, crocodile snake eel, flamboyant cuttlefish, seamoth, dragonet, squat lobsters, just to name a few. Among all the critters, however, the nudibranchs and flatworms are the superstars.
I have done several hundred dives during the last five years, but I am amazed at how Ligpo still gives me the thrill of discovering new shapes, patterns and colors of the nudibranchs. A dive is not complete without a nudibranch photo opportunity. Even at night, it is common to encounter the Spanish dancer with its commensal emperor shrimp, or a green flatworm emerging from a sea squirt. Sometimes, the evening reveals strange species of nudibranchs or flatworms that I haven't identified up to now. With such a large nudibranch population, Ligpo is one of the best places to observe these critters feeding, resting, laying eggs, competing, courting, and mating.
Although nudibranchs are hermaphrodites, they normally need a partner to mate successfully. By chemoreception, they are able to recognize a potential partner. When the pair meets, the process of courtship proceeds with body contact. At this point, the genitalia located at the right side of their necks are
A pair of Nembrotha lineolata initiating to mate. Nikon F100, Ikelite Housing, 105mm 2.8 AF lens, Ikelite Substrobes 200, RVP135, F22,1/250, TTL
The Spanish Dancer is host to a resident emperor shrimp. Nikon F100, Ikelite Housing, 105mm 2.8 AF lens, Ikelite Substrobes 200, RVP135, F22,1/250, TTL
readily stretched out. The courtship process usually doesn't last long, and the act of copulation begins when the genitalia are engaged. I have seen a pair of Nembrotha that were so "hot" that they immediately began mating without any noticeable courtship ritual. Mating can go on for several hours.
On several occasions, I have observed a Chromodoris subsequently mating with at least two partners, especially when they are in a group of three or more. Yes, orgies are common in Ligpo (I mean, the nudibranchs). On the other hand, I have also witnessed a pair of Pteraeolidia ianthina in an intensely aggressive courtship behavior - more like a rape attempt. Having sensed a potential mate, the aggressor chased the potential victim, who was obviously disinterested as it tried to push back the assailant using its anterior.
In an apparent show of
desperation, the attacker started to purse its mouth against the defender. The struggle persisted until they reached a ledge and fell separately. After observing what had happened, I felt that I had witnessed a crime.
Subsequent to receiving a reciprocal exchange of sperm, each individual will produce a "ribbon" of eggs that come in different patterns and colors, depending on the species. Then, the eggs are left to develop on their own as most adults proceed with their regular activities. However,
Pteraeolidia ianthina parents tend to stay with the eggs while other adults accompany them. Thus, wherever there is a brooding parent, then there must be more individuals in the vicinity. And since they prefer to stay in the same locations throughout the year, I am able to find them consistently.
The feeding preferences of nudibranchs are diverse. Some like to eat algae, sponges, ascidians, or even fish eggs! Sea squirts seem to be the favorite food of the Nembrotha as
Hypselodoris bullocki. Nikon F100, Ikelite Housing, 105mm 2.8 AF lens, Ikelite Substrobes 200, RVP135, F22,1/250, TTL
they are often seen sucking within them in absolute pleasure. In another instance, a Hypselodoris was enjoying a buffet of fish eggs so plenty that it seemed like food paradise. In Ligpo, I learned that each nudibranch species could be found near its particular food source.
The amount of time I spend with the nudibranchs provides me the opportunity to observe and learn more about their behavior and at the same time capture it on film. With a lot of available subjects getting these images is uncomplicated. All I need is a housed Nikon SLR with a 105mm or a 60mm lens, twin Ikelite substrobe 200s (especially useful at night because of its reliable built-in torch), Ultralight arms, and lots of Fuji Velvia film. Set at TTL, all I do is to concentrate on critter hunting and image composition.
Moreover, at the usual shallow depths of around 15 to 25 feet within an area of 500 square meters, I don't even have to care about decompression or about getting lost! Dives that last for two hours are the norm.
I have already taken a lot of photographs of marine life around Ligpo Island and I continue to add images of freshly-seen nudibranchs and flatworms. Managing the accumulating number of photographs is becoming a challenge, but with the delight that each good picture inspires in me - not to mention my occasional yell of enjoyment underwater - it is all worth it.
Ligpo Island offers an inn where the bedrooms are just a few steps from the shore entry so I can go diving easily as well as get rested immediately after a full day of marathon dives. The inn's kitchen (food!) is similarly accessible. What more could I ask for?
Nonoy Tan [email protected]
¡3*1 i International
WORLD'S III! III JM 11
* Liveaboards 5
Real Photography, the only 5 star centre in Bali offering IANTD technical diving:
Western and Asian Directors
* Mola Mola to macro
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